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What if We Took Losing Out of Dispute Resolution?

Dispute Settlement Counsel by Michael Zeytoonian.

 I was recently on Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester, MA relaxing and journal writing.  I noticed two women hitting a volleyball back and forth in a small box on the sand.  In the aftermath of gold and silver medals for U.S. women’s beach volleyball at the London Olympics, these two women played a one on one version, with one big difference.

Their goal was to keep the volley going as long as they could, without the ball hitting the ground.   When my wife and I play tennis together, our approach is to keep the volley going as long as we can.   The enjoyment grows with the longevity of the volley.  It is counterproductive to have someone miss their shot.  It stops the flow. Keeping the flow going by playing better is more rewarding than winning a point.

When the goal is to keep the ball in play and the volley going, players play to each other’s strength, rather than exploit the other player’s weakness.  It’s a collaboration.  Otherwise, there would be shorter volleys, we wouldn’t enjoy it as much or get as much out of it.

Most competitive sports are about winning, to a ridiculously clichéd level.  “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing,” Vince Lombardi was quoted as saying.  The notion of winning at all costs is frequently pursued in sports, even if it results in serious collateral damage to a player or a team’s future.  Witness the recent “bounty rewards” that the New Orleans Saints used to encourage players to “take out” key players on other teams.  And what does that do to the sheer joy of just playing the sport?

I’ve always loved playing basketball.  Winning was something that helped determine the direction or limits of the game and where it would go – an eventual stopping point.  But most of us played because we loved it so much; we didn’t really care who won. It was more about the quality and level of play than the outcome.  In fact, if a game ended in a lopsided result, we’d change the teams to make it more even and play again, so we’d have a better game.

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Michael A. Zeytoonian

Michael A. Zeytoonian is the Founding Member and Director of Dispute Resolution Counsel, LLC and is a lawyer, mediator and ombudsman. He is formerly a partner and now Of Counsel at Hutchings, Barsamian, Mandelcorn & Zeytoonian, LLP, in Wellesley Hills, MA. He specializes in employment law, business law, special education… MORE >

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